Warburton Slices Visiting Defence To Give Red Rebels The Blues
The Hatters put on an early fireworks display that was full of fizz, as their second meeting of the campaign at Edgeley Park with FC United of Manchester ended in an emphatic victory – leaving County just one point away from the play-off positions.
The first-half proceedings followed those of the FA Cup Third Round Qualifying match between the two sides at the end of September, as County raced into a three-goal lead before half-time. But, thankfully, events after the break departed from the previous game’s script which had seen the ‘Red Rebels’ fight back to force a replay.
For what would be the closest home game before Remembrance Sunday, the Hatters sported their white and black kit in support of the Royal British Legion. And the starting line-up showed two changes from the line-up that had taken to the field at EP against Kidderminster seven days earlier. Ben Hinchliffe returned between the sticks in Ian Ormson’s stead, while Bohan Dixon – fresh from netting a hat-trick in the Cheshire Senior Cup at Cheadle Town in midweek – replaced the injured Chris Smalley within a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Dixon did not take long to justify his selection – threading a delicious through-ball after six minutes to Matty Warburton, who proceeded to wiggle through challenges by Danny Brady and former Hatter Jordan Fagbola, before firing past visiting goalkeeper Lloyd Allinson for an early lead.
And after another three minutes, County’s advantage was doubled, as Warburton turned provider to cross from the left for Jason Oswell to half-volley in off the Cheadle End crossbar and chalk up his 15th of the season in all competitions.
An injury to Gary Stopforth after 19 minutes, following a challenge by Michael Connor, saw newly-arrived Oldham loanee Kallum Mantack become the potential subject of a pub quiz question, as, having taken his bow as an on-loan Red Rebel for the September Cup-tie, he was brought on to make his second debut at EP, in a match involving the same two teams, within 35 days.
Just over 20 minutes later, this second debut became one properly to remember. Dan Cowan’s excellent run down the right and into the FC area found Oswell, whose shot was parried by Allinson but into the path of Mantack for the substitute to convert on the rebound.
HALF-TIME: County 3 (Warburton, 6; Oswell, 9; Mantack, 41), FC United 0.
The visitors did not begin the second half, as they had done when three-down in the FA Cup, with a flurry of substitutions. But they did, rather ominously, force the early pace following the resumption by earning two early corners.
And after 54 minutes, the nerves of the County Faithful began to tingle, as the head of Jason Gilchrist (whose 57th-minute goal had begun his side’s comeback in late September) got a touch to Craig Lindfield’s cross from the right to pull one back for the Red Rebels.
It was likely that any subsequent goal would be crucial to the outcome – and, as things turned out, one arrived before the hour-mark. Following a County break, substitute Adam Thomas crossed from the left for Oswell, who was brought down in the box by Matthew Hughes. Referee Woods pointed to the spot immediately, and Warburton sent his low penalty past Allinson for his 10th goal of the campaign.
Further drama followed as the Red Rebels themselves broke and Gilchrist fired home – only to be flagged up for offside. And Hinchliffe subsequently had to be at his best in punching away a long-range shot from the same player, as well as tipping behind a shot on the turn by Fagbola.
Mantack fired just wide of the left post – and Warburton, after one of his many sizzling runs of the afternoon, unleashed a shot that Allinson dived to smother. But, in spite of no further addition to the scoreline, the Hatters, rather appropriately for the time of year, had been well and truly on fire!
FULL-TIME: County 4 (Warburton, 6 and 58 (penalty); Oswell, 9; Mantack, 41), FC United 1 (Gilchrist, 54).
Team: Hinchliffe, Cowan, Duxbury, Ball, Clarke (Capt.), O’Halloran, McKenna (Thomas, 55), Stopforth (Mantack, 19), Oswell, Dixon, Warburton (Walker, 87).
Unused Subs: Ormson, Stephenson.
Booked: Duxbury, Oswell.
Man of the Match: Warburton.
Attendance: 4,072 (606 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Pics: Mike Petch